Students examine local, global issues during Youth Leadership Day

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Day Without Hate founder makes presentation to students

By Sandy Barnes

Students at the Montessori School of Evergreen learned about economic disparities in countries throughout the world during Youth Leadership Day on Friday. Eighth-graders at the school also looked at challenges in their Evergreen community and explored ways to address them.

Those in the group led by student Noelle VanHorne said they like the sense of community in Evergreen but don’t think there are enough recreational opportunities here. Students also said stray trash from the EDS transfer station in Marshdale is a problem, and suggested a cleanup activity.

While discussing issues with her classmates, Noelle said that many people in Evergreen live with the threat of evacuating their homes because of wildfires. 

As they considered ways to assist the community, Henry Kresge and other students suggested making ready-to-go kits for residents needing to escape the threat of wildfire, and also for impoverished residents.

Students also talked about ways to address overuse of Evergreen Lake Park and resulting environmental damage to it. Henry suggested that the park district charge an entrance fee to limit visitors. 

The students also considered a project to build birdhouses at the lake using funds from the entrance fee, or donations from area businesses.

“What could we do to make it better for the elk?” asked a student in the group.

“People could drive slower,” said a classmate.

Before the activity on Evergreen, students gathered in groups according to continent — an exercise that gave them a visual understanding of global discrepancies between population and land availability. 

Most of the eighth-grade students were in the Asian and African groups, and only a few in the ones representing North America and Europe.

“Look at the way the population of the world is distributed,” social studies teacher David Land told the students.

Asia has approximately the same amount of land as North America but more than half of the world’s population, Land said. On the other hand, the United States contains only about 5 percent of the global population, he noted.

While offering projections that the world's population will double in 58 years, Land asked the students to think about what would need to change to accommodate this growth.

“If the population of the Earth doubles, we’ll need twice as much of everything,” Land said.

Students also explored disparities in economic wealth and health care while comparing Europe and North America with developing countries in Africa and Asia.

During a presentation on a Day Without Hate by Benjamin Reed, a teacher at Standley Lake High School, students learned how the project began and its significance for them.

“Have you ever at school felt left out? Have you ever left somebody else out?” Reed asked the students. 

Reed explained that he started the Day Without Hate in response to the student shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, eight years after the tragedy at Columbine High School in which two students opened fire on classmates.

Reed said he learned that the killer at Virginia Tech looked up to the two boys who killed people at Columbine.

“I, for one, was sick of it,” Reed said of the tragic incidents.

After talking with his students, Reed decided to initiate the Day Without Hate in his school, which now has grown into a national movement.

This year on April 25, the Day Without Hate will be celebrated across the country, he said.

“It comes down to you as a student,” he said. “You can take control. You can make a difference.”

Montessori teacher Christine Lafferty coordinated Youth Leadership Day at the school, which also featured videos on community service projects in which students have participated. 

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.